Poor access to quality food is one of the key issues in the cause of food deserts. A study conducted by Canadian researchers at the University of Western Ontario in Canada found that in 1961 over 75% of urban residents had access to a grocery store, whereas only 20% do today—and the population has nearly doubled in the last 50 years.
Why is this? Because the big grocery stores follow the population with the most money, currently located in the suburbs; the small markets were driven out by the large grocers. What remains in most food deserts are convenience stores and fast food restaurants; both are more expensive than the big grocers prices, and residents in food deserts end up paying nearly double of what large urban grocery stores charge for comparable items. Contrary to popular belief, not all food desert residents are poverty stricken, but they may not have a car, may be disabled, or simply do not have the time to travel miles away to purchase wholesome food. Studies have shown that when quality food is available, residents in urban food deserts will purchase it, but with the abundance and accessibility of convenience/fast foods, this is what is mostly consumed, obviously because what is offered in their neighborhood is their only choice. Many are not underfed, but they are malnourished. This of course leads to poor nutrition and health issues.
Solutions may include incentives for small markets to open in food desert areas, farmer’s markets, community gardens and entrepreneurs to operate food carts in food deserts.
Urban food deserts in major cities | Emerging Technology Trends | ZDNet.com. (n.d.). . Retrieved July 20, 2009, from http://blogs.zdnet.com/emergingtech/?p=896.